Op-Ed: Jewish Identity Part I
Moshe FeiglinThe writer, former MK and Speaker of the Knesset, is head of the Zehut...
The main junction from which the different opinions on most issues in Israel diverge is the question of identity. Israel does not have clear borders because it does not have a clear identity. The dispute is not really over peace or security. The dispute is about identity. The more solid our Jewish identity, the stronger the connection between us and our Land. The stronger the desire to retreat from our Jewish identity, the stronger our desire to retreat from the Land. When we connect to our identity, we will connect to our Land and we will merit clear borders and peace.
The "peace process" with the Arabs is not important. What is important is the process of building our identity; of building a Jewish state that will restore our lost feeling of collective meaning. If we properly build a Jewish state of liberty, we will merit peace in Sderot and Kiryat Shmonah. But if we continue to flee this true challenge, Tel Aviv will not enjoy quiet, either.
What is the Jewish State that I envision? The most basic Jewish principle is liberty that stems from the Jewish belief in the Creator. Faith in G-d is the root of liberty.
All throughout history, from Pharaoh and Ahashverosh and from Hitler to Stalin, absolutist dictators scheming to conquer and enslave the entire world would conclude that they must destroy the Jewish People. For the Jew's very essence will always remain free. He cannot be turned into a slave. He already has a king: The King of the world.
When the founding fathers of America wanted to establish a state founded on liberty, the Bible and the Exodus from Egypt were their main source of inspiration. Now, when Western civilization is crumbling under a demographic and cultural attack, there are great expectations for a new message of liberty that will emerge from Zion. When those expectations are left unresolved, they turn into disappointment and are translated into loss of legitimacy for the existence of a Jewish state on the face of the earth.
Now is the time to wave the banner of liberty from its source: from the Nation and Land of the Bible. We must slowly but surely switch over to liberty-based conduct. For the State belongs to the nation – not vice versa.
Housing: Allocation of land by lottery
Approximately 93% of the land for housing is currently being held by the State, through the Israel Land Authority. Even more amazing is the fact that most of the land ultimately made available for construction comes from the additional seven percent of private land in Israel. The State is simply holding on to the central resource that belongs to the entire nation. This causes an artificial rise in the cost of land, housing and living.
This Land is our Land. Not only on a national level, but on the most personal level, as well. The Torah of Israel sanctifies the bond between the Israeli and his apportioned lot of land. We must slowly but surely (by lottery) transfer ownership of the land from the State to the nation. Free trade between citizens will lower the cost of land even more and will do to housing what the liberty principle did to the cell phone market.
Without even noticing it, parents have surrendered their most central liberty: the liberty to educate their children. Today, if a parent wishes to independently educate his child, he must acquire special authorization from the Ministry of Education.
A liberty-based state will employ the voucher method. The Education Ministry will supply every parent with education vouchers to be used for their children. Special needs children will receive more vouchers. Parents will be able to "cash" these vouchers in the school of their choice. This will create healthy competition between the schools, the level of studies and diversity will flourish and responsibility and liberty will be restored to the parents.
Family: Income Tax for Couples
The family is the first and most basic support system that a person has. It fashions his identity and fosters his liberty. Without family (and community) modern man remains alone in the big city, enslaved to forces greater than him.
In the past two decades, the State of Israel has done all in its power to compromise the status of the family. Today, happy couples divorce just for the tax exemptions afforded single parents.
The State of Israel must restore the traditional family as a value to be encouraged. It need not replace single-parenthood and must not stem from scorn toward the rights of homosexuals. Instead, it must highlight the understanding that without the traditional family, there is no society and no liberty. The first thing that must be done is to tax families as one organic unit (the sum of the income of both partners). In this way, one partner can work extra hours and be taxed reasonably, allowing the other partner to spend quality time with the children. (To be continued)